By Joan L.
I know there are many people like me who never quite finished their degree after spending a couple of years in college. For some it was the need or desire for a paycheck, and for others- well, life just got in the way. Whatever the situation, it can be frustrating and embarrassing to admit to yourself, friends and co-workers that you don’t have a degree.
When I was laid off from a company after working my way up for 13 years, I decided it was time to go back and finish my degree-before my daughter just entering high school started college.
Looking at job opportunities was discouraging without it. I knew my old company paid for tuition and books. Being a working mom, I felt it would have been impossible to take advantage of this and work while finishing college at the same time. If I had only known what I needed to get started and finish, I would have done it years ago.
It took a while to convince myself that going back to school would be worth it. I had so many questions:
- What would it cost?
- Would it be flexible enough with my work and home life?
- Will my credits from community college transfer to a four-year university after all this time?
When I looked into it, I was relieved to find that:
- Many four-year universities now offer the flexibility of part-time programs, evening courses, accelerated formats and online programs to better align with an adult students life and work needs.
- Enrollment procedures for returning adult students are becoming simpler and offer greater support and resources like transfer credit assessments and financial aid information.
On a personal level, it was encouraging to see there were others like me out there, and that a degree was within reach.
If you’re in a similar situation and don’t know where to start, here are some tips that helped me find the right college and get started right away:
- Collect copies of previous transcripts from college courses regardless of how long it has been. If it’s been less than 10 years, some of these transcripts may be accessed online; otherwise you will need to contact the institution for copies. * Hint: Always ask for numerous copies that are sealed and official so you have them if you apply to more than one place. That way you can have one for yourself that you can open and look at when it comes in the mail. Once you open it, it is considered unofficial.
- Research colleges that offer the programs and flexibility to meet your needs. That might include part-time, evening, weekend, or online programs. Information forums, tours and meetings are a valuable tool in guiding your decision whether or not a college is a right fit.
- Have a transfer credit assessment done to see what is transferable. Credits are usually available for accredited two and four year college courses, military active service, police academy, nursing programs, and college level examination programs: AP, CLEP and International Baccalaureate Exams.
- See what the options are for start dates. Programs for adults are usually offered with start dates year-round.
- Look at majors and programs that will help meet your personal and career goals. Some people make career changes when they have this opportunity.
- Research ways to pay for your education. There are more financial opportunities available than you might think. Some employers even offer money to help pay for the cost of tuition.
- If you are missing lower division general education and prerequisite classes, it is possible in some cases to complete them at a 2-year college while attending a 4-year institution.
I’m happy to say I was able to finish my degree within two years while going part-time at night. You don’t need to wait until you get laid off from a job to finish. Going back for a bachelor’s degree was the best decision I ever made. The advisors at Notre Dame de Namur University, where I chose to finish my degree, worked with me to identify what evening classes were needed to complete my degree as soon as possible with a clear roadmap to follow.
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